Celtics-Bulls preview: Stopping transition

Celtics-Bulls preview: Stopping transition
November 12, 2012, 4:43 pm
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CHICAGO There were plenty of feel-good moments in Boston's win at Milwaukee on Saturday. But arguably the most impressive aspect of the victory was that the Celtics' defense limited the always-on-the-run Bucks from going buck wild in transition.

The 15 points given up by the Celtics on fast-break points only tells a part of the story of what was a strong night for their transition defense.

A big part of limiting opponents in transition has to do with cutting down on turnovers, something the Celtics would love to do tonight against the Chicago Bulls.

In Saturday's 96-92 win over the Bucks, the Celtics played a nearly flawless fourth quarter, shooting well over 50 percent from the field without committing a single turnover.

By not turning the ball over, that allows Boston's defense to set itself up which in turn makes it tougher -- a lot tougher -- for opponents to generate points.

"The games that we lost, transition defense has been our Achilles heel," said Celtics guard Jason Terry. "(Saturday) we made it a point. For the most part, we were able to control our turnovers."

Boston will not have an easy time continuing that trend of limiting turnovers against a Bulls team that has been among the NBA's best squads defensively under former Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau.

The Bulls have been especially strong in forcing turnovers this season, with opponents coughing it up 16.7 times a game which ranks seventh in the league.

But the C's come into tonight's game with the confidence that comes about from having seen tangible growth in what has been one of their greatest weaknesses - transition defense.

And to do it against a Bucks team with such dynamic open court scorers like Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, only adds to that positive vibes they are feeling right now.

"If you can stop it against (Milwaukee), you can do it against anybody," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "This team is as good as you're going to find, this and Miami, at just breaking you down with multiple players."

Transition defense is just one of the many concerns Boston has heading into tonight's game against the Bulls. Here are a few other keys to the game as the Celtics try and snap

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Rajon Rondo has been shredding defenses apart all season with an array of pin-point passes resulting in double-digit assists every game. He's the primary reason why the Celtics rank among the top-five this season in assists per game. But the Bulls have made it tough on opponents when it comes to getting assists. In fact, they are only giving up 19.8 per game which ranks sixth in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Joakim Noah. There's no love lost between these two, which only adds more intrigue and suspense to this matchup between two of the better teams in the East.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green had a breakout game at Milwaukee on Saturday with 12 points and strong play defensively. It'll be interesting to see if he can build off of that performance or whether he'll return to Struggelesville, which he has called home for most of this year.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has had its share of problems limiting opponents scoring in the paint. They currently rank 27th in the league with foes churning out 45.7 points in the paint per game. The Bulls may be just what the Celtics need right now. Chicago comes into tonight's game among the NBA's worst at scoring around the basket. The C's would do themselves a world of good in keeping the Bulls around their 38 points-in-the-paint per game average which ranks No. 23 in the NBA.